The Instigator
Rockylightning
Pro (for)
Losing
32 Points
The Contender
Danielle
Con (against)
Winning
34 Points

Middle Schools Should Not Use Letter Grades

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 11 votes the winner is...
Danielle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/27/2009 Category: Education
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 9,960 times Debate No: 10242
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (11)

 

Rockylightning

Pro

First I would like to thank the Con for joining this debate (if joined) and I would like to thank the audience for judging.

First I would like to emphasize the definition as MIDDLE SCHOOLS should not use letter grades.
Also I am going to make a proposal as the instigator: That we use number grades instead, more specifically, percentage grades. EX. 95%, 76%, 84%

But first I would like to say why letter grades are not a useful grading system.
-John Lounsbury of the National Middle School Association has more than a few good reasons. "Traditional report cards are of minimal value to parents," says Lounsbury. "Letter grades do not report at all on many of the things that parents find most important: Is my child making friends; is he responsible; is he learning new skills?" Also, Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards agrees, and takes the argument one step further. He says, "The research on grades has demonstrated three robust and reliable findings: When kids are led to focus on getting good grades, they tend to do less creative thinking; they pick the easiest possible task if given a choice, and they begin to lose interest in the learning itself." According to a NY times article: With parents shopping for the best schools, the letter grades can obscure some of the most salient information, because they are determined largely by how much progress students make year to year rather than how well their skills stand up against objective standards.
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Now let me take the time to expand in detail on my proposal.
If Middle Schools Use percentage grades, there will be a whole lot of competition, precision, and efficiency in grading

1. Competition
lets say two students, in the same class, are very competitive, and they are competing for grades, which therefore will lead to higher grades (psychological law of incentive: "More inclined to do something with more incentive")
But how can this competition exist when there's only a certain amount of grades, with letter grades, there's only 15 DIFFERENT GRADES! With percentage grades, there would be 100 DIFFERENT GRADES! With more competition, this would positively affect students.

2. Precision
With percentage grades teachers would be able to give more precise grades, as I have said before there would be 100 grades in percentage (1-100%), and only 15 for letter grades (F- through A+). With percentage grades, teachers would now have the opportunity to give student's their real grades, instead of winging it with an estimate-like grade. For example lets say a student gets a 91%, the student would know the EXACT grade for his test, homework, etc. but if he got "A-" he could think it was anywhere between 90% and 93%, this proves why LETTER GRADES are NOT accurate in the LEAST.

3. For my last point, efficiency.
If a teacher has to convert a fraction into a letter grade, this could take much more time. For example, lets say a test is worth 60 points, and the student scores 57, the math may be easy for some but for a teacher, this could be hard. Instead, the teacher could just divide 57 by 60 and get the percentage grade, without having to convert it.
This site clearly shows the complexity of the percentage to letter conversion.
http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca...

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Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com...
http://privateschool.about.com...

-Thank You For Judging and Debating
Danielle

Con

Thanks for the challenge, Rocky, it should be fun debating you again :)

1. Pro explains, "Letter grades do not report at all on many of the things that parents find most important: Is my child making friends; is he responsible; is he learning new skills?" However, you'll note that my opponent's suggestion of using number grades doesn't report these things either. Getting a "B" in Social Studies doesn't mean that one's social skills are up to par. So in fact, it seems like what Pro is actually advocating for are additional feedback on report cards (which can be detailed in the write-in comment section by teachers), or particular information about a child's well-being in the class which can be relayed at parent-teacher conferences or other meetings. I absolutely agree with and encourage a parent taking a high interest in what their child is doing in the classroom and how they're fairing as individual students. However, the purpose of the report card is to evaluate how the student is performing to the standards and expectations of the curriculum.

2. Pro's next point states, "The research on grades has demonstrated three robust and reliable findings: When kids are led to focus on getting good grades, they tend to do less creative thinking; they pick the easiest possible task if given a choice, and they begin to lose interest in the learning itself." This is a completely irrelevant argument, because the same reality still applies even if number grades were used instead of letter grades.

3. Pro says that using number grades would be more appropriate, because students would be encouraged to out-perform their counterparts. You'll first note that the idea of competition in education completely upholds the point from #2 in regards to pupils choosing to do the easy stuff on purpose. Nevertheless, this is a very weak argument. As Pro mentioned, the letter grade of an A- for example represents the number grades of 90-93. I maintain that students can still be competitive with number grades. When you receive a certain letter grade, it's indicative that you scored within 3 measly points making competition still widely accessible. Further, since this is only middle school as my opponent pointed out, I highly doubt that the kids' interest in competition would be weakened because they didn't know if one scored a 91 or 92 on a test.

4. Once again, I don't think the issue of precision is a big deal at all. Pro exclaims that letter grades are "NOT accurate in the LEAST" but I think that's a completely false and dramatic statement. So long as one knows that an A- represents a score of 90-93 percent, then one's achievement or rather comprehension of the subject material (which is really what grades are supposed to represent) are acknowledged with a letter grade. One can understand how well a student has understood the material or performed on an exam or assignment whether or not they received a grade of a 70 or a C.

5. As far as Pro's last point - efficiency - I negate the idea that this is an issue at all. He says that if one scores a 57/60, a teacher would have a hard time converting that to a letter grade as opposed to a number grade. Yes, he's right - the teacher can divide 57 by 60 and get the percentage grade... but knowing that percentage grade would also reveal the corresponding letter grade, so the teacher is actually not doing any additional work. Further, sometimes numbers are even more confusing than letter grades. For instance, if I received a 51/60 on an exam, I might not know what that translates to of the top of my head... especially if I'm in middle school. However, if I saw a big "B" on the top of my paper, then I will know how I did right away. I'd also like to point out that the link Pro provided showing the "complexity" of letter grading is really not complex at all, though I think that's a bad example of a scoring chart and not one a MS teacher would use. I'll link to a better one in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1
Rockylightning

Pro

1. The con refuted my first point by saying "number grades don't report these things [how well he's doing socially, etc.]" however, each week, or month, or certain increment of time, a teacher inputs a "behavior" or "social" grade. This would clearly be displayed in a progress report and the report card. If the child isn't doing well socially, or has very bad behavior, he/ she will get a low grade on that grade, which will be shown in the progress report, (ex: 2/10 on behavior). A low percentage will [and should] be noticed by the parent.

2. The con also called my second point "irrelevant because the same reality still applies even if number grades were used" this is not true, letter grades are much less diverse, let me explain: Anecdote: [[[ A student wants to get better grades, he says "I will get an A" which makes him concentrate on that ONE single "A", if there were number grades, he wouldn't concentrate on that one letter, but will concentrate on getting a RANGE of numbers, which would lead in less stress on hitting one exact point. So instead of "I will get an A" it would be "I will get Above 90%!". This refutes my opponents refutation.

3. Now to refute my opponents third refutation: Con stated that "When you receive a certain letter grade, it's indicative that you scored within 3 measly points making competition still widely accessible." This is not true, if two students score an A- on a test, how will they know who got the higher grade? They will have to assume a grade, "was it a 91? or a 93?" So to clarify my third point, competition will be more fueled with number grades.

4. My fourth point ties into my last point: As con said "So long as one knows that an A- represents a score of 90-93 percent, then one's achievement or rather comprehension of the subject material (which is really what grades are supposed to represent) are acknowledged with a letter grade." but As I have stated before, if I get a test with a big red "A-" on it, what will I think will go on the report card? This is unnecessary that we will be less precise for no reason! ALSO con HAS NOT STATED why less precision is better.

5. Now onto con's 5th refutation: Con stated that number grades can actually be confusing, by saying "For instance, if I received a 51/60 on an exam, I might not know what that translates to of the top of my head... especially if I'm in middle school. However, if I saw a big "B" on the top of my paper, then I will know how I did right away." This may be true, but at least with a letter grade you would know the following: How many you got right, how many you missed, and [if the teacher used a percentage] the percentage you got right. But with a letter grade you would just know the approximate area of scoring.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Now to summarize my points.
In my refutation to my opponents refutations I have stated that number grades are more precise, accurate, efficient, and they make kids more competitive for grades.
Also for the reasons that my opponent has stated NO sources or quotes, the PRO has won this debate
Thank You-

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Danielle

Con

1a. Pro counters my point - the current system doesn't evaluate behavior and social skills - by saying that such standards can simply be factored in by giving students a number score. But again, the teacher can do the same thing with letter grades! They represent the same thing. The only difference is precision; for instance, an A- could be anywhere from scoring a 90-93. That 3 point scale is insignificant at the middle school level to any legitimate degree. Instead of giving a student a 2/10 for behavior, that 2/10 can just as easily be converted to 20% a.k.a. "F."

1b. Con Contention -- In terms of aspects like behavior and social skills, letter grades would be MORE appropriate than number grades. For instance, an "A" would represent way above average, a "B" would represent "above average," a "C" would represent "average," etc. So, if a teacher was grading one's participation, it would be a BETTER standard to rate it as "above average" a.k.a. giving them a "B" as opposed to a number grade like 82. Grading stuff like that numerically (social skills) seems really difficult, inconvenient and even detrimental.

1c. Con Contention -- To earn an "A" is to demonstrate above average proficiency. The great thing about an "A" is that what can be considered above average proficiency can alter in certain areas. For instance, in some subjects, tests or areas of education, an above average proficiency might mean only having to get a score of 60. If someone sees a 60% grade, they might assume automatically that one's proficiency has failed. However, if they see the person got an "A" then they will know the person has above average proficiency despite what the number represents.

2. Pro's next point is entirely non-sensical. He says that instead of a student being pressured to say, "I will get an A!" he will instead exclaim, "I will get above 90%!" However, since an A = above 90% then these 2 statements are saying the exact same thing!

3. Next, Pro points out that if 2 students both received an A- grade, then you wouldn't know who performed better because one could have gotten a 91 while one may have gotten a 92. As I pointed out, this is irrelevant. Hardly anything is so competitive in middle school that the precision of such a score (within 3 points) would be so significant that this is relevant. Further, this debate focuses on report card grades and test grades, so the student is only competing against himself. The grade reflects one's own knowledge of a subject, and not necessarily one's ability over other students. If a situation arose where there was some sort of intense competition, then teachers could (a) use number grades in those exceptions, or (b) find out other ways to determine a "winner" if option (c) of them both winning was not available.

4. Pro writes, "As I have stated before, if I get a test with a big red "A-" on it, what will I think will go on the report card?" You will know you scored above average with a score between 90-93 percent. Pro continues, "ALSO con HAS NOT STATED why less precision is better." My argument isn't that less precision is better, but irrelevant and unnecessary. Second, I've explained how letter grades can be better in some situations (1b, 1c). Third, I've explained how letter grades successfully demonstrate what the whole point of grading is: depicting one's proficiency in a subject area. Obviously someone who scores 92% and someone who score an A both demonstrate above average proficiency.

5. Pro says that with a letter grade, you won't know how many questions you got right. Actually, one will still be able to figure it out. If there were 20 questions on a test (worth 5 pts each) and I received an A- grade, then I know my score is between a 90-92. So, it's easy to see that I got between 1 and 2 questions wrong. I doubt there will be any type of "competition" that will make minor differences like this relevant. if there are, those situations can be accommodated to.
Debate Round No. 2
Rockylightning

Pro

1a. Precision is EVERYTHING, let me make this more clear, if yo see a big A- on your paper, you don't know how many questions you got right or wrong, you will simply know the approximate number you got right. Have you ever wondered if you got a letter grade on a test (B+) if it's an 86- or an 89) I believe that should be shown by number grades. Con Also stated that the behavior can be represented by a LETTER GRADE, on the topic of behavior, with something that could be influenced by many factors (participation= 1 point, attitude= 1 point) then you should know how may parts of the [lets say 10] points you got right. It seems just a hassle having to guess for better or worse.

1b. On the contrary to con's second point, wouldn't you want to be given a more specific letter grade rather than just a letter? Also a percentage grade is a size that fits all, instead of PROFILING your grade by saying "A= Excellent, B= Above Average C= Average, etc. ) you could see your own level of grading. Instead of thinking of yourself as "below average" you could profile that grade as "my average" this could raise self esteem. Instead of saying "I'm average" you could say "I'm doing fine" because you aren't being profiled by a letter!

1c. Onto the con's third point, con stated that "proficiency can alter in certain areas. For instance, in some subjects, tests or areas of education, an above average proficiency might mean only having to get a score of 60. If someone sees a 60% grade, they might assume automatically that one's proficiency has failed." I will refute this by saying that the teacher has to tell them about these differences to the grading system. Even if the teacher didn't say that, she would get loads of parent's complaints, so she would have to tell them. So this point is irrelevant.

2. Con stated that "since an A = above 90% then these 2 statements are saying the exact same thing!" These are not the same thing, they are different in many ways, first that a 90% or higher is a much broader area, rather than just 3 grades, so it gives a student more options to aim for, if he/ she is aiming for consistent grades.

3. Con's next point explains that "Hardly anything is so competitive in middle school" but this is false, having gone through middle school myself, I would know that grades get very competitive. We NOT enable more competition, even (in the outlandish statement) if there is little competition, why not fuel that competition?

4. Con also states "My argument isn't that less precision is better, but irrelevant and unnecessary." This is a very foolish statement because I have explained why precision matters over and over again.

5. Con's last point is that "one will still be able to figure it out. If there were 20 questions on a test (worth 5 pts each) and I received an A- grade, then I know my score is between a 90-92. So, it's easy to see that I got between 1 and 2 questions wrong." So as pro has stated before "i might not know [as a middle schooler] what the math is off the top of my head" so con has COMPLETELY contradicted themselves!

For the reasons that con has still failed to provide her own points and that she has stated NO SOURCES, VOTE PRO!
Danielle

Con

1a. Pro completely ignored my points regarding precision. Precision is everything... to a kid in middle school? No. Further, this is a completely irrelevant argument. If one sees that they scored a B+ on an exam, then they know they scored between 86 and 89. On most tests, you can be able to tell exactly how many you got wrong with a score like that. For instance, if each question is worth 2 points, then you know you got an 86 or 88 on the test meaning 6 or 7 wrong out of 50. As I said, this is easy to calculate if someone in MS cared that much. Additionally, you'll notice that Pro ignored my point about how if precision WAS important in a specific scenario for any reason, then it could be accomodated to.

1b. The idea that letter grades represent profiles (i.a. A = excellent) is only true in some cases, where I believe it can be beneficial i.e. grading participation or effort. However, on a report card, letter grades represent number grades. Pro says that one's self esteem would be raised by seeing a letter rather than a number; however, that's not always true. The plusses usually make people feel better about their grade, as it's seen as "almost" a grade higher lol. A lot of systems only have plusses (and no minuses) as well, so that it's possible to get a C+ but not a C minus. That would just be a regular C. Anyway, the bottom line is that nobody's being profiled by a letter. People's attitudes and expectations about their grades vary. Also, Pro's suggestion that you could use a point system for grading things like participation is just silly. Giving someone a 5/5 points is no different than giving someone an "A" which represents the same exact thing.

1c. Regarding my 3rd point about assumed proficiency, Pro's only response was that the teacher could tell the student or parent before or after what the proficiency actually represents. Uh, in that case, then the teacher can just as easily tell the student the numbers that they used to get their letter grade, so if anything, this is a moot point.

2. Pro said that instead of a student being pressured to say, "I will get an A!" he will instead exclaim, "I will get above 90%!" However, I pointed out that since an A = above 90% (and up to 93) then these 2 statements are saying the exact same thing. He said that it's not the same thing in "many" ways - but then only mentioned 1 of those many ways - in saying that in one case you're shooting for a 90-93 wheras in the other you're going for an A (which is the same thing...)? Yeah, I don't get it either. This point goes to Con.

3. Pro ignored my 3rd point. While he responded to the part about competition, he completely neglected my argument that this debate focuses on report card grades and test grades, so the student is only competing against himself. The grade reflects one's own knowledge of a subject, and not necessarily one's ability over other students.

4. Once again, Pro dropped all of my arguments that he couldn't refute. I said letter grades can be better in some situations, and explained how letter grades successfully demonstrate what the whole point of grading is: depicting one's proficiency in a subject area. Someone who scores 92% and someone who score an A both demonstrate above average proficiency. The only thing he mentioned in his rebuttal was more about precision.

5. Pro says that a MS student (who is oh so obsessed over their 3 point marginal grades, mind you) wouldn't be able to do the simple math that converts letters to numbers. However, since he pointed out in point 1c that the "teacher can just tell them" then the same explanation suffices here :)

Regarding Pro's concluding arguments, the NY Times source he used was talking about something entirely different (not promoting numbers over letters) and the chart he gave was pretty useless too. Here's one that does the same for my case: http://staff.wwcc.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Rockylightning 7 years ago
Rockylightning
DANG!!! SO CLOSE TO BEATING THE LWERD!!!!
top debater: you have my respect
Posted by Roxy6 7 years ago
Roxy6
wait 14 for joining what
????
Posted by Roxy6 7 years ago
Roxy6
Yeah, and the normal age for 9th grade is 14, and 8th graders if missed dead line can be 14 too, so how can you think I might be not 14? But by my age makes me in middle school, and so forth having for knowledge and truth about our current system of the "letter grades."
Posted by ournamestoolong 7 years ago
ournamestoolong
The age limit for joining is 14...
Posted by Roxy6 7 years ago
Roxy6
are any of you even still in middle school?!
Posted by ournamestoolong 7 years ago
ournamestoolong
I am fine with the current system, but it needs to be tweaked toadd more room for error, at least in middle school.
Posted by Roxy6 7 years ago
Roxy6
you are very weird and kids already use bad enough drugs and some of them are people that are my friends and it is horrible and p.s. I like letter grades they help if they used percentage I would be so confused!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Danielle 7 years ago
Danielle
Grr. What did you do in R2? Why is the format all fugged up like that?
Posted by Rockylightning 7 years ago
Rockylightning
omg....
but yes i think they should relieve pain in a more LEGAL way
Posted by Johnicle 7 years ago
Johnicle
You know what middle schools should do? They should offer suicidal drugs in every class to relieve the SEVERE PAIN! *Flips off the middle school* .... lol painful memories.
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